Medicare Open Enrollment: Do You Have the Right Plan?

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Open EnrollmentMaking the most of your health care coverage is hard enough when you only have private insurance to deal with. But if you're among the roughly 50 million people covered by Medicare, you have to juggle a bunch of different types of coverage -- including prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans -- to help pay for the expenses that ordinary Medicare doesn't cover.

Every year, you get a chance to review your coverage to make sure it's working as well as it can for you. This year's open enrollment period began Monday and runs through Dec. 7.

Most people simply stick with their current coverage. And that's fine if the plan you chose gave you the coverage you needed at reasonable prices, and access to high-quality care in locations that were convenient for you. As the Medicare website suggests, these are some of the important factors to use in evaluating a plan.

But if any of those favorable traits were missing, it's worth it to look at what else is available. You'll almost always have enough plans to choose from that you'll be able to find at least one that will work well for you.

How to Pick a Better Plan

Shopping for health insurance is difficult even for those who are generally comfortable with financial affairs.

While you may have certain medical conditions or prescription drug needs that you already know about, it's impossible to guess with certainty what types of health care you'll need in the coming year. Moreover, finding the most important information -- and figuring out exactly what a given plan will cover -- can be a big challenge.

One good place to start is the Medicare Plan Finder, which allows you not only to determine which plans are available to you, but also to compare their features against one another.

As you review the information the finder gives you, pay special attention to the following:
  • The monthly premiums you'll pay, both for your regular health plan as well as for any prescription drug coverage.
  • Any deductibles you may be responsible for out of your own pocket before coverage kicks in, and what portion of any additional charges you'll have to pay as well.
  • Whether you can pick your own doctor.
  • Whether the plan covers the particular prescription drugs you need, as well as whether they're available in cheaper generic form and whether an approved pharmacy is nearby.
Medicare even allows you to get a custom-tailored report based on the drugs you actually use. By entering your personal Medicare number, you'll get personalized search results that take your medical history into account.

Another thing to bear in mind is that there will often be a trade-off between how much you pay every month in premiums versus how much your copay is for doctor visits and prescriptions. All other things being equal, a plan with higher copays and lower premiums is best for someone who doesn't anticipate a lot of medical needs. Conversely, having lower copays can be worth paying a higher monthly premium for if you require substantial care or have multiple prescriptions.

On the other hand, don't forget to take a look at the other end of the spectrum: What will your maximum out-of-pocket expenses will be if you end up having a catastrophic event or other injuries or illnesses requiring extensive and expensive care? Ideally, you'll be able to find a plan that leaves you with low enough maximum liability that you can cover it from savings.

Don't Pass Up This Opportunity

It can be tempting just to coast through open enrollment without even thinking about making changes. All too often, however, Medicare recipients waste money by sticking with plans that aren't right for them.

By spending a little time and taking advantage of the resources at your disposal, you can make sure you'll get the best coverage at the lowest cost. Be sure to visit the Medicare website for more information.


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11 Comments

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toosmart4u

Latest GOP plan, to take away the cost of living of social security to help pay for the bush tax cuts. How low can they go?????

October 18 2012 at 5:37 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toosmart4u's comment
jdykbpl45

Bernake is the problem. Obama wants Seniors to die, so he does not have to pay them.

He hung our Ambassador to Lybia out to die, so we know what he is willing to do.

October 18 2012 at 7:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
GOD BLESS AMERICA

FOR THOSE WHO USE AARP THAT IS ALSO A RIP OFF YOU PAY AARP FOR WHAT. CHECK OUT YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE PRICE, THE MONEY YOU GIVE AARP THEY PASS ON TO THE DEMOCRATS TELL ME WHAT MAKES THAT SO GOOD. AAARP LAUGHT AT YOU

October 17 2012 at 7:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
GOD BLESS AMERICA

OBAMA CARE IS 2000 PAGE JOKE ON AMERICANS IF IT WAS GOOD THEY WOULD HAVE IT
IF THERE WAS ANY THING IN IT DR'S WOLD NOT BE LEAVING MEDICARE OUT OF THEIR PATIENS

OBAMA IS A JOKE BUT IT TOOK IDIOTS LIKE BIDEN, HILARY, PELOSI BROWN , FEINSTEIN , BOXER ETC TO TAKE US DOWN

WAKE UP AMERICA OABAM IS A MUSLIM AND HE HATES US FOR BEING GOOD PEOPLE AND BELIVE ME HE IS NOT

October 17 2012 at 7:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
NKS55S

People of America if you do not have the health plans the white house Insiders have like Pelosi , Reid, Obama Wassermann Geithner Holder have well then people you have nothing at all then. They have 100 percent coverage with no co payment 0 DEDUCTABLES. All other plans for the private sectror are garbage shell plans pay peter to give to paul plans which ads up to no real coverage at all.

October 17 2012 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to NKS55S's comment
gmydogbud

Pelosi and Company Pushed "Obama Care", on their fellow Americans without even reading it - However Nancy, Reid, Obama, Geithner, Holder & Company - Are Not Being Forced To Take Their Wonderful "Obama Care", For Themselves & Their Famlies! If "Obama Care", Was Any Good, The American People Would Never Know About It. They Would Keep It For Themselves, The Way They Have Done With INSIDER - TRADING - !! Thats How They All Became MultiMillionaires - Harry Reid Is WORTH - ONE - HUNDRED - MILLION & Has Done This On Salary Of ONE HUNDRED NIENTY THOUSAND PER YEAR + PERKS-!!

October 19 2012 at 12:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
howlar2

The fact is that the Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals, and other healthcare providers is being REDUCED. This will curtail access since many doctors will refuse to see Medicare patients. Doctors are saying now that they would rather see Medicaid/welfare patients than medicare patients because they get paid more. What other business reduces its revenue from year-to-year and expects to remain solvent? This is an ourage upon seniors, who are now financing 50% of Obamacare so that 26 year-olds can be covered by mommy an daddy. This article is so disingenuous that it must have been written by Obamacare supporters. Shame on America for doing this to its seniors. The whole Obamacare results in one gigantic death panel for seniors since the reduced access will result in worse treatment and earlier death for many.

October 17 2012 at 2:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Yung G Wang

If this election as everybody says JOBS JOBS JOBS then Mit Romney will win. In many ways it's not fair for a
one term president to deliver all the campaign promises. We all like Obama but he did inherited a terrible
situation and he had no financial management back ground.

October 17 2012 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Yung G Wang's comment
gmydogbud

With respect: He did run for the office - he wanted the job and then all he has done is cry that he inherited all the problems from Bush. When is President Obama going to as -Judge Joe Brown would say - Man UP?

October 19 2012 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

Beware when you decide to travel outside United States because your Medicare may not cover you if you are sick and hospitalized outside this country.. There is some not all of the supplement plan choices offered by Medicare that covers outside hospitalizations and they cost a lot more !

October 17 2012 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jan Tiffany

My answer was simple after I served my time with a provider I did not want. Could not stand, and found totally incompetent I went to my AARP group for help eight years ago. I've been there ever since. I do not change Dr.'s or my clinic nor do I change prescription drug programs. Maybe I've been lucky, but I know if I need help the AARP is there to turn to. If you are age 50 and above you can join the AARP for $16.00 a year. You can rest assured they will have a prescription drug program and medical provider who will work for and with you. Go to www.aarp.org for information. I do not receive compensation or gratuities for this post. I have posted this on my own without the knowledge of the AARP.

October 17 2012 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jan Tiffany

I'm glad this has come up because seniors are being hurt by these changes yearly when they unwittingly change Dr.s and medical providers when they change prescription drug plans. This happened to me once, but never again. I was stunned and dumbfounded to find I had signed up for a drug program, and a new medical care provider that I did not want. This was done after I told the agent I would be staying with my own Dr.'s and clinic. It was then he sprung the document I had just signed on me by telling me I had to select a primary care Dr. from the list of Dr.s with the prescription drug programs. I told him "NO". He said "Yes" and waved my signed form in my face. I ended up with a mindless old Dr. who should have retired years before. Everything about the service was inferior. At the end of six months I was out of there. I contacted my AARP Offices and changed back to the providers I had been hi-jacked and scammed from. I've more people in my senior living complex tell me how bad their service is and has been when they were forced to change because of prescription drug plans. One woman is currently fighting pace maker problems with a provider who doesn't know how to reset it. Because of it she feels constantly on the verge of a heart attack with her A-Fib problems. Someone has to stop this insanity and stop scamming seniors once a year. Seniors should have the right to choose and stay with a medical services provider who also has access to their prescription drug needs who knows and understands their medical needs.

October 17 2012 at 12:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
suec8

We have a choice??? If we choose any plan other than the one my husband's former employer selects, then we loose all of our insurance coverage (medical, dental, vision) and since I am not yet 65, I would be left without any insurance.
We certainly would NOT pick the insurance company they currently use since they now restrict my husband from using the best health care facilities in our community. I presume it is because they have some sort of sweetheart deal with a second tier hospital chain to get huge discounts. Yeh, just what we wanted, cut-rate health care.

October 17 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply